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Old 12-14-2015, 07:56 PM   #1
Alla En El Rancho Grande
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First Name: Shawn
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Default A Hunting Story: Rifle, Caliber, Bullet Choice, Myths and Lore

A Hunting Story: Rifle, Caliber, Bullet Choice, Myths and Lore
(Sorry for the length. A true story)

Cliff notes for those that don't like to read: I killed two Oryx with one shot from a 1895 Mauser in 7mm Mauser w/140 gr. Nosler Ballistic tip as well as a 175 lb. boar. (pics and video)

In every hunting camp I’ve ever been in, at some point and time the conversation always includes a debate around rifle, caliber and bullet choices. The groups always divide up into beliefs. There are those that follow the fast and flat crowd (the ‘O’Connors’) and those that follow the big and heavy (the ‘Keiths’). Then there are those that believe in ‘no lead head, nothing dead’ and those that believe in the newest bullet construction and hunting show marketing. There is also a smaller group that believes in new fangled cartridges. This group loves to tell the other groups that smaller and fatter is better because, well, it’s smaller and fatter. Whether they know it or not they are debating the classic and long running Jack O’Connor and Elmer Keith debate on caliber and cartridge choice for game

One thing is clear. The vast majority of these people have never hunted more than 4 times and never shot more than 100 yards at a deer sized animal. There are always a few that have shot a moose or elk or bear once. But these people usually have done this only once with some super magnum. Then there is always somebody that’s been to Africa and talks about needing a caliber that will stop a Suburban for any game shot.

I fall into the group that has hunted a lot but has never shot anything past deer and hogs. I also like to read the classic hunting stories from the classic African PHs and hunting rag writers of the day. I have used a variety of cartridges, in a variety of rifles, from 6mm to .308, and have easily secure deer size game at ethical hunting distances. I guess you could say I lean more towards O’Connor. I have also hunted with magnums. The results are the same and end up being a more expensive bullet and more recoil. The real issue with magnums is that there is usually more meat damaged. Without having shot any large and tough game, I would error on the side of large bullets that penetrate deep and hit hard. Why, well because that’s what I’ve read and witnessed on hunting programs.

In the end bullet selection and shot placement is the most critical in any hunting.

Fast forward to last weekend. I was invited on a high-end corporate hunt. I was going for free and wanted a doe for the meat. I was hoping to see a hog so I could get some pork to mix with the venison. The ranch we were staying at also had all the exotic African plains game so I was also going to enjoy seeing a wide variety of game in the wild. What I wasn’t going to do was pay the exorbitantly (it’s all relevant) large sums to shoot trophy whitetail or exotics.

Before I left I debated what rifle to take, but really I debated the cartridge. I had a lot of choices in 6.5mm, 7mm and .308. I ended up taking an 1895 Mauser in 7mm Mauser. My though was I hadn’t used this rifle in 14 years and it was a classic late 19th early 20th century African round. This would be the closets this rifle would ever be to African game. I also had chosen some handload 140 gr Nosler Ballistic Tip (BT) in front of 42 grs of 4064. This is a mild load for the actions age (2700ish fps) and is sub moa in this rifle. It also is perfect for whitetail and hogs.

This being said, I have seen Nosler BT’s lead core separate from the copper jacket and do funny things when shot placement was not the best and or large bones were hit. Since I wasn’t shooting anything ‘tough’ and the rifle was last sighted in using these loads, the choice was made to stick with the 140s.

(copper case from boar shot below)

Now the odyssey begins. The hunt was horrible. The weather was not cooperating, in that, it was raining and hot with pterodactyl sized mosquitos. This weather conundrum was followed by even more and heavier rain, high winds, with a 20-degree temperature drop. Since the rains had been keeping everything green and no real cold weather had set in, the animals were not all that interested in the corn from the feeders. Nobody really saw any great animals to shoot at. Those that had trophy tags only saw doe and cull bucks and those with doe tags saw nothing but low-end trophies and exotics. A few people shot some cull bucks and a few doe.

On day one I was sitting in a stand when I noticed a large boar, for this area, coming in. It ducked into a bush line and I figure it was going to come into the feeder to eat at the closest point to the bush behind the feeder. Sure enough he stuck his nose out, poked his head out and promptly ran back into the bush. He couldn’t have smelled me. The wind was coming at me and was strong. He just was overly cautious. I guess that’s how he got old. With this boar around nothing was going to come into the feeder so I decided if he let his stomach take precedence over his though process I’d attempt a shot. Sure enough he poked his head out again and started moving closer to the feeder but staying no more than a foot away from the brush line. Adding to this he wouldn’t turn broadside for a behind the ear shot.

Now my mind starts to think. “You’re on a 160+ lb. boar, at 125 yards, and you only have a 7mm 140 gr Nosler BT in the pipe.“ “If this bullet doesn’t penetrate because of separation and or deviates from hitting bone, then you’re going to be tracking a wounded boar in the brush at dusk.“ This was not something I wanted to do for a variety of reason, mosquitos being number one.

But then the boar turned broad side and I took the shot. The shot was where I wanted it and the boar was instantly dead. The video below sums it up.

This was the largest hog I’ve shot (175 lb.) and at the furthest I’ve ever shot at one this size. Mind you, 125 yds. is not a long shot, but rather most of the hogs I’ve shot have been at less than 75 yds. I also usually do harvest hogs this large because the meat is not as good.

Because the hog's head and very large and the tusks were large as well, I though I would get a European mount of the skull. When I got back to camp and the processing was being done my dreams of a skull mount were crushed. The bullet had entered behind the ear on the neck at a downward angle passing through the skin (1 inch thick with hide and fat layer) and out the other side just a little further back on the neck. When the skin was pealed back, the copper jacket fell out and we saw were the energy transfer and the bullet core passing through had blown the back of the skull out and scrambled the brain. Chalk one up on this shot, to my myth and lore, on a BT bullet on, thick skin. While there was separation from the core, the core mushroomed, as advertised, and carried through the game. The copper jacket ended up being 58 gr. so something in the neighborhood of less than 88 gr. passed through and did it’s job.

I never questioned the 7mm Mauser’s ability to kill a hog, this size, at this distance. I did question the bullet choice for this job. Please note: if I had to do over again I would have chosen a larger weight and different constructed bullet. I am by no means suggesting that this bullet is a wonder missile. I was surprised at the results. I learned something and again, shot placement usually trumps all. This could have gone completely different. Chalk one up to my myth and lore.

Lets move unto day two of the morning hunt. Lets make this short. It was worse than day one. We were now on the back end of warm front one. Except the winds had picked up and the rain increased. So as an added bonus the pterodactyl sized mosquitos were not deterred by the wind. The morning hunt left me watching a anemic 5 point followed by a descent 8 and 10 point. Then one really nice 10 point decided to hang around just to make me watch. I had no trophy tag and it was if the deer knew it. So wet, warm and itchy I wasn’t really looking forward to the afternoon hunt. Afternoon rolls around and we decided to road hunt and stalk looking for anything with a big body to shoot. There were 5 of us in the truck in the back and front. This was not optimal as there is the “who wants it” question every time you see something. Since I was an invite, hunting for free and wanting my customer to have a fun time I kept my mouth shut. I was giving blood to the buzzing insects for good measure.

What I did get to watch was a gut shot followed by a Rambo knife move. A rear leg shot and a long time of watch people look for a non-existent blood trail and finally a lot of jump up and wait to long to take the shot ‘buck fever’ moves. Welted and itchy, at least there was a steak for dinner.

This takes us to day three. Since the hunting was not getting better and the second front was moving in with cold weather and harder rain, the majority of the group decided to leave on Sunday morning after breakfast. I did the math and figured we had 18 game tags to fill and 3 of those were trophy. Since there were only going to be around 8 hunters, the odds were in my favor that I would get to shoot a larger cull buck or take a large 8 to 10 point whitetail for meat. Then there was the chance at the doe that I wanted in the first place.

So as we’re heading out to the stand and I am wearing a performance fabric long sleeve and a thick t-shirt underneath. I though, “I’ll be in a vehicle, covered in the stand and back inside before I’d get cold.” “Why should I carry more than is really needed?“

On the way out to the stand, we are told that they are opening up exotic to us to make up for the conditions and to fill tags. I though, “well great jester as the heavy winds, temperature drop and heavy rains were going to make that a big tease”

I was right. BIG TEASE. The rain was constant and the winds were picking up. We saw doe rear ends way off and nothing more. We called the hunt early and went to pick up two more hunters.

Now we are on the way back to the lodge and the fun begins.

We open a gate and as we’re driving through it the guide stops and says, “Look right there are 3 Scimitar Oryx.” (a bull, cow and calf) “Who wants to take a one?” Again, I’m in the ‘wait until nobody wants to shoot mode’. As luck would have it, two of the gents were uncomfortable with the distance and lack of a solid rest and the third didn’t want to stalk up in the rain.

I’m up. I didn’t have my rifle loaded so I’m ripping through my bag for 3 rounds. I open the door and now the trio runs off. Like the soup Nazi says, “No Oryx for you”. The guide says, “Jump out and wait by the corner in the brush I’m going to drive around and drive them back to you.” “We’re going to outsmart the Oryx.”

So I jump out with my hearing protection, 3 rounds, and NO JACKET (let me stress the no jacket part). Off goes the truck and I peak around the corner and there are the trio standing and looking my way at about 175 yards. I’m up wind so this staring contest isn’t going to last too long. Sure enough off they go. I say to myself, “This could take awhile.” “I should have brought my jacket.”

Now me, a rifle, three rounds, hearing protection and NO JACKET are waiting for the guide’s master plan to come to fruition. Then as luck would have it, the real rain starts. I am soaked. I am waiting for the trio to return. I am cold. I am waiting for the trio to return. I’m starting to shiver. I hear a rifle shot. It sets in. The trios aren’t going to be returning.

Now all I can think is I hope they didn’t wound the Oryx as I’m going to be out here a while WITH NO JACKET. About 10 minutes later I here a few pistol rounds pop off so I figure they got something. Soaked to the bone and cold, I put my hearing protection on to keep my ears warm and I crawl up under a tree to keep myself out of the rain. Another 10 minutes goes by and I hear a honk. The truck is on the road with one dead Oryx bull in the back. Into the back of the truck I go wanting this to end so I can get a cup of coffee and a hot shower.

As I’m driving back I pondered the use of the 140 gr. 7mm bullet on an animal that weights 400 lb. I was thinking that I was under gunned for this and it probably was better that it ended up this way. At least I sold myself on this.
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